"The first time Masha Hamilton traveled through Afghanistan talking with the country's most disenfranchised women - war widows, imprisoned criminals, child brides, she felt that the expulsion of the Taliban had given them a sense of hope. When she went back four years later, in 2008, the Taliban had returned to power in large sections of the south, "almost overnight" she says. That led Hamilton to act on a long-simmering idea, one sparked by the Taliban's public execution of a mother of seven, to help Afghan women tell their stories. "Telling one's story is a human right," says Hamilton, a journalist, award winning novelist and Brooklyn mother of three. ""In 2009 Hamilton founded the Afghan Women's Writing Project (AWWP). Since then some 100 American authors, journalists, and screenwriters have led month-long online workshops for more than 60 Afghan women."*
Many Afghan women are denied freedoms we take for granted, including the fundamental right to tell one’s own story.
"From June 15 to July 31, 2011, AWWP is running a campaign to support Project efforts to bring more voices of Afghan women to the world through their writing.
All donors will be entered in a drawing to win gifts from authors and artists from around the world. Any amount is welcome, but we suggest a minimum of $20 for this special campaign." **
I would be the first to say that there are many causes that need my/your limited amount of giving. I have some favorites. I'm sure you do too. Still I ask that you go to the AWWP website, read about the program and help in any way you can.
Why Afghanistan, you ask? Why not my own backyard? My answer would be to try to do both. Whether you believe in or agree with the war(s) in the Middle East, the fact remains that Afghanistan has been a battlefield for way too long. While it is, in my opinion, men who make the decision to go to war, it is women who must pick up the pieces when the bombs have stopped falling. The dollars we send to help these (and women in other countries around the world) won't offset the dollars spent on missiles but I believe they are seeds planted for peace.
As for your own backyard? I feel certain whether you live in a small town or a faced-paced city opportunities abound to tell your story and help others tell theirs. Why not volunteer to tutor women and/or children in a homeless shelter? Or donate old books to after school programs? Or read stories at a day care center?
Today I'm grateful for all the pens and pencils and pads of paper that I take for granted. I'm grateful for the gift of storytelling that was passed down to me. I'm grateful for the afternoons when I lay next to my mother while she read me to sleep. I'm grateful for women like Masha Hamilton.